The idea that there was a time when humanity lived happily in a state of primitive simplicity goes back to the early Greek poet Hesiod and was taken up by Roman poets. The Golden Age, the aurea aetas, was the period when Jupiter's father and predecessor, Saturn, was king of the gods and presided over a world where the ready availability of simple food made work unnecessary; animals were not exploited; no inventions, even of the simplest kind, such as the plow, existed; justice reigned supreme; and all humanity lived in perfect happiness.
Albius Tibullus (c. 50-19 b.c.), an elegist contemporary with Propertius, had none of the latter's liking for learned and elaborate verse. His poems are both simple and elegant, whether they treat of his loves, his patron, or the pleasures of country life.
Quam bene Saturno vivebant rege, priusquam 3 5
tellus in longas est patefacta vias! nondum caeruleas pinus contempserat undas, effusum ventis praebueratque sinum, text Tibulli aliorumque carminum libri tres, ed. J. P. Postgate (Oxford Classical Texts, 1924)
meter elegiac couplet [§m2]
quam bene | Satur|no || vi|vebant | rege pri|usquam tellus | in lon|gas || est pate|facta vi|as
35 The exclamatory quam qualifies bene, how well; Saturno ... rege abl. absolute [§G49], lit., Saturn [being] king, trans, when Saturn was king; vivebant they (i.e., people) used to live; priusquam conj. before.
36 tellus telluris f. poetic word for earth; est patefacta (patefacio -ere) was opened up, cleared; in longas ... vias into long roads—in the Golden Age, people did not move about and so had no need of roads.
37 Take nondum (not yet) with this clause and the next (1. 38); caeruleus blue; pinus -us f. [ship of] pine—ancient ships were made of pinewood (synecdoche [§Gg8]); contempserat (contemno -ere) had scorned—with the subsequent advent of ships, people were no longer afraid of the sea.
38 -que is postponed to after the third word for metrical reasons but must be taken in sense at the beginning of this line [§g 3]; effusum (effundo -ere spread) ... sinum (sinus -us m .fold, here used of a swelling sail) is the object of prae-buerat (praebed -ere expose); ventis dat. to the winds.
nec vagus ignotis repetens compendia terris presserai externa navita merce ratem. 40
illo non validus subiit iuga tempore taurus, non domito frenos ore momordit equus, non domus ulla fores habuit, non fixus in agris, qui regeret certis finibus arva, lapis, ipsae mella dabant quercus, ultroque ferebant 45
obvia securis ubera lactis oves.
39f. vagus ... navita (a poetic variant of nauta) roving sailor; ignotis ... terris abl. of place from which [§g 39] from unknown lands; repeto -ere take back; compendium -(i)l n.profit; presserat had weighed down, lit.,pressed; externa... merce instrumental abl. [§G47] with foreign merchandise (merx mercis f.); ratis ratis f. poetic word for ship.
41 illo ... tempore abl, of time when [§G37] at that time; take non with subiit (3 sg. perf. ind. act. subed -Ire go under); taurus -i m. bull; iuga pi. for sg. [§G53] (iugum -1 n. yoke, a heavy wooden frame attached to an animal's neck to harness it for pulling a plow or vehicle).
42 Take non with momordit (3 sg. perf. ind. act. mordeo -ere i>t£e, here take in its teeth); domito (domo -are subdue) ... ore (os oris n. here mouth) instrumental abl. [§g 47]; frenos trans, bit (freni -drum m.pl. normally bridle).
43f. non ... ulla = nulla; foris foris f. door—houses had no doors because everyone was honest; the subject of fixus [est] (figo -ere drive in, plant) is lapis (lapi-dis m. stone); qui (antecedent lapis) introduces an adjectival clause of purpose [§g88], as is shown by the subjunctive regeret (rego -ere here determine); certis finibus instrumental abl. [§g47] with fixed boundaries; arva (arvum -i n. field) is the object of regeret—in later times, the boundaries of fields were marked by stones planted in the ground; the complete honesty of the Golden Age made these unnecessary; since ager and arvum have the same meaning (field), trans, in agris on land.
45f. Take ipsae with quercus (nom. pi. of quercus -us f. oak—all names of trees are feminine in Latin); trans, mella by the singular (mel mellis n. honey); ultro of [their] own accord; the subject of ferebant is oves (ovis ovis f. sheep), and its object is ubera lactis udders (uber uberis n.) of milk (lac lactis n.); obvia (obvius + dat. in the way of), an adjective that has no single-word equivalent in English, agrees with ubera and governs the dative securis (securus carefree)—the meaning is of [their] own accord, sheep used to bring udders of milk in the way of carefree [people], i.e., to meet people, who were free from care; sheep's milk was, and still is, commonly used in Mediterranean countries.
47f. acies -el f. battle line; Ira -ae f. anger, rage—because everyone was righteous and no one lost his temper, there was universal peace; the subject of duxerat (duco -ere here form) is saevus ... faber (fabri m. blacksmith), and its object is ensem (ensis ensis m. poetic word for sword); immiti ... arte abl. of manner [§G45] with merciless (immitis) skill.
non acies, non ira fuit, non bella, nec ensem immiti saevus duxerat arte faber. nunc love sub domino caedes et vulnera semper, nunc mare, nunc leti multa reperta via. 50
49f. love sub domino lit., under Jupiter (Iuppiter Iovis m.) [as] ruler; supply est or sunt as appropriate with caedes (-el f. slaughter), vulnera (vulnus vulneris n. wound), and mare; nunc mare [est] now [there is] the sea, i.e., now the dangers of sea travel have become part of our lives; take leti (letum -I n. poetic word for death) with multa... via many a way of death; reperta [est] has been found (reperio -ire).
An important figure in 17th-century Oxford, England, was Dr. John Fell (1625-1686), who, among other things, did much to advance Oxford University Press, including designing the "Fell types" for its use. Because of a minor incident, he acquired the reputation of being a disagreeable person.
On one occasion, he summoned an offending undergraduate in order to expel him. When the latter presented himself, Fell offered to set aside the punishment if the student could give an immediate translation of the following epigram of Martial (set here in a digital Version of Fell's pica roman type).
Non apio te, Sabidi, nee possum dicer? quare:
hoc tantum possum dicere, non amo te. Epigrammata 1.32 I do not love you, Sabidius, and I cannot say why. I can only say this: I do not love you.
The quick-witted student, whose name was Thomas Brown, replied immediately—and in verse:
I do not love thee, Dr. Fell. The reason why I cannot tell, But only this I know full well, I do not love thee, Dr. Fell.
Fell kept his word and allowed Brown to stay at the university. Although both men have now sunk into relative obscurity, Brown's translation has become one of the better known jingles in English;
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